Why All The Hype With Cloud Computing?

October 29, 2008

Believe it or not, I like Wiki’s definition of Cloud Computing the best. Wiki defines Cloud Computing as a general concept that incorporates Software as a Service (SaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), Web 2.0 & other recent, well-known technology trends, in which the common theme is reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users.

The best example of Cloud Computing that comes to mind & the ones I use most often are Google’s Mail, Talk, & Doc Applications. Why do I use these applications instead of similar applications already installed on my PC? The answer is simple, these Cloud Computing tools allow me to access my e-mail, message with colleagues, & edit documents, spreadsheets, & presentations regardless of the PC I’m using & the city/state/country I am in. Simple said, they offer me a convenient solution to communicate & work that doesn’t involve me taking my PC everywhere that I go.

When Amazon officially released their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) earlier this year many companies (especially start-up companies that had yet to invest millions of dollars into their IT infrastructure) jumped on board. EC2 offered far more than a hosting solution. EC2 gave companies & software developers access to all the computing power they needed to run their applications at a cost far below what it would cost to procure & maintain the computing power on premise. To note, EC2 is just another piece of Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) offering.

Even with Google & Amazon’s play in the cloud, few were treating Cloud Computing as a mainstream approach to IT. Following Microsoft’s announcement of Azure, its long-anticipated Cloud Computing strategy, earlier this week at their Professional Development Conference I believe that Cloud Computing will become more mainstream. While many reports from Microsoft’s conference suggested that the news largely unfazed show attendees; I think this news will rattle the cages of Google, Amazon, & will awake the “regular” PC users who will think that it is cool that they can now work on their Word documents for work at home without having to take their work PC home.

Microsoft’s dominance in productivity software — Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, & Excel — remains strong, with market share based on revenue of at least 95%, according to data released in late 2007 by research firm International Data Corporation. Google Docs & Spreadsheets & even OpenOffice, which is an open source suite of tools that users can download for free, will continue to chip away at Microsoft’s market share, but the reality is that they still have a very long way to go before Microsoft will become scared. With Microsoft now making their Office suite more accessible, they are positioning themselves to maintain control of their existing user base that may otherwise eventually migrate to online tools because of their convenience factor.

Along with the online convenience factor I think this move to Cloud Computing also shows Microsoft’s realization that more users are beginning to user their mobile phone to write & edit documents, spreadsheets, & presentations. When doing such work from a mobile phone it makes more since for a user to manage their files in the cloud & use software that is also accessible to them in the cloud. Just this Monday, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about how the mobile phone looks to be replacing the laptop. There is so much truth to this article & Cloud Computing is going to make this shift to mobile even easier for the consumer.

The hype about Cloud Computing is this. Businesses will turn to the Cloud mostly because the costs & resources to manage a large IT infrastructure far exceed the costs to make use of the Cloud. Software developers will turn to the Cloud because they can quickly obtain the environment needed to develop & deliver their applications. The “regular” PC users will turn to the Cloud for applications because of convenience & because the Cloud supports their applications for use on their mobile phone.

At NetworkIP & Jaduka we will continue to support the advancement of Cloud Computing by making both our telephony infrastructure & transaction processing engine available to the masses.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


NetworkIP & Jaduka Attending Mobilize 2008

September 18, 2008

Early this morning Trevor Baca, VP of Software Engineering, Karthik Srinivasan, Director of Systems Engineering, & I jumped on planes headed for San Francisco to attend tomorrow’s Mobilize conference. This is the inaugural year for the Mobilize conference & with GigaOM behind this one it is sure to be a success & last for many years to come. This is an exciting time to be in the mobile space & we expect tomorrow’s conference will be just as stimulating & productive as it promotes to be.

The conference has pulled together thought leaders from Google, Nortel, Cisco, Motorolla, Sprint & many others involved in the mobile industry to cover topics that we’ve all been asking & that will enable us all to make informed decisions in this new market. The Mobilize conference also includes a launch pad session so companies like Cumulux, Fonemesh, Fonolo, Fusion Garage, Heysan, LuckyCal, MotionDSP, Pinch Media, placethings, Skyfire Labs, TuneWiki & Zecter can present their new mobile products.

Over the past few months we’ve been talking about how faster mobile data speeds (3G, 4G, & LTE) & open mobile operating systems (Apple, Symbian, & Google’s Android) are making this an exciting & opportunistic market for businesses & application engineers to develop new & innovative applications for the mobile space. As more companies & application engineers enter this space & find themselves supporting mobile consumers & mobile products they are realizing the need for faster, more robust, & more reliable transaction processing services. These companies & application engineers obviously understand the value of transaction processing services; however, they haven’t the time, the money, or the resources to develop them on their own. Their focus is where it should be; on their mobile products & services. So they rely on us & our proven experience in the transaction processing space to ensure their accounts & products are properly managed.

Our transaction processing services allow companies to manage all of their mobile consumer accounts & mobile products via simple API interfaces without having to invest any costs or resources to build a network, deploy hardware, ensure security standards, & manage complex databases. We do the heavy lifting so these companies & application engineers can focus on their existing mobile products, new mobile products, & most importantly their customers.

Brian Kirk
VP Business Development
NetworkIP & Jaduka


Mobile Payments Market Forecast for 2013

September 8, 2008

Last week Juniper Research released a new report forecasting the growth of the Mobile Payments Market through 2013. The study projects that purchases using Near Field Communications (NFC) enabled phones coupled with money transfers are likely to total $600 billion globally by 2013. Howard Wilcox, the author of this report, points to the continued growth in mobile subscriber penetration & the availability of exciting & easy to use services as the driving forces to this type of growth.

Wilcox concluded that today’s mobile market is mostly dominated by the purchase of digital good such as games, ringtones, & music. The new opportunities in this space will include the future of NFC, mobile money transfer (MMT), & the purchase of physical goods via the mobile device. The report suggested that the Far East & China, western Europe, & North America will represent more than 70% of global MMT gross transaction value by 2013.

In order for this market to mature at the rate suggested by Juniper we’ll need to see a number of things fall into place. The good news is that the mobile operators can now support the bandwidth & speeds that these mobile payment applications will require. Also, mobile operating systems such as Symbian, Apple, & Windows Mobile are now open for us to develop these new mobile payment applications.

So what pieces to this puzzle are we still missing?

The mobile device manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung, RIM, & Apple need to begin releasing new phones with NFC technologies built in. Without these devices in the market, retailers will not begin updating their existing Point of Sale (POS) infrastructure to accept contactless payments. Once released, the device manufacturers will need to make these new mobile NFC enabled devices affordable. Unless people are purchasing these new mobile devices, the retailers will still be reluctant to update their existing POS solutions.

Beyond the mobile devices & the POS infrastructure consumers need to be educated. Consumers must understand how these new mobile payment solutions will work, the value in using these solutions, & most importantly the consumer needs to be convinced that these solutions are safe & secure. There have been far too many reports of identity theft for consumers not to wonder how this solution is safer than what they are using today.

For those of us partaking in this new market the sky is the limit. Of course we still have some obstacles to navigate & it’s going to require platform providers like NetworkIP, mobile device manufacturers, mobile service providers, retailers, application developers, & the banking & credit card companies to all work together.


Success at the Prepaid Press Expo

August 25, 2008

Last week’s Prepaid Press Expo in Las Vegas was a huge success for NetworkIP, our customers, & the prepaid card industry as a whole. The Expo brought seasoned veterans along with a good number of new companies entering the prepaid market.

In an effort to design the best conference possible The Prepaid Press partnered with the Pelorus Group & as a result the show offered a great array of conference tracks to include a look at the Prepaid Long Distance market as a whole (day 1), Prepaid Wireless (day 2), & Prepaid Alternative Payments (day 3).

On day 1 our very own CEO, Pete Pattullo, presented on the topic of “Building a Better Mousetrap” which focused on the technology of prepaid. Pete’s presentation discussed how we at NetworkIP have approached building a solution to stand the test of time received outstanding feedback from the audience. As Pete suggested, it takes a lot more than a VoIP box to develop a truly remarkable platform. It requires a combination of passion to build reliability, requires managing quality connections (our own iQT solution), ensuring competitive pricing, having the right information to make decisions, the evolution of the platform (we’ve been at it for 10 years & recently released our 8th major software revision – ICS8), innovation & the never-ending pursuit of excellence, & having talented experienced people with the right skills. These are the components that have made our solution the best in class!

Following our very own Leadership Summit Wednesday morning I caught a number of good conference sessions on Prepaid Wireless later in the day. Randall Walrond, VP of Product Management at IVR Technologies, discussed how the prepaid market can leverage the new technology of today’s mobile smart phones. He & I agree on a number of points on what these new devices & faster networks open up to the industry.

I also heard a number of compelling arguments suggesting that the average prepaid consumer isn’t ready for the new smart phones, the applications that run on these smart phones, & new technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC). Oscar Munoz, President of Uni-Mas Corporation, provided compelling arguments that the average prepaid consumer can’t afford today’s smart phones & that technologies such as NFC are just to far out to invest in for today’s market. Munuz of course didn’t argue that smart phones & new technologies such as NFC would eventually reach the prepaid consumer. He simply suggested that it’s still a few years down the road & that we need to focus on the reality of today.

On day 3, Joel Stanton of Lightspeed Research presented on the value that exists in today’s alternative prepaid market. He discussed the pros & cons with of both the closed-loop & opened-loop gift card industry. Stanton’s presentation was then followed by a discussion on how to best distribute prepaid card solutions. Thomas Honey of Better ATM Services discussed the numerous problems with the distribution of gift cards & cited specific examples such as banks offering VISA & MasterCard gift cards.

Looking back on this year’s show & the topics that were discussed we noticed a significant shift in attention towards the mobile market. We too believe that the mobile market offers huge potential for prepaid. As network speeds increase & mobile phone operating systems, mobile devices, & the mobile networks continue to open up there is an abundance of opportunity for companies to leverage the services & applications that can be developed for this market.

Our hats off to the folks at the Prepaid Press who were able to put together such an exciting & informative event. It was definitely worth us attending, it was great for our customers, & we look forward to maturing the many new relationships that were made at this year’s event.


The 2008 Prepaid Leadership Summit

August 11, 2008

We are looking forward to hosting next week’s Prepaid Leadership Summit in Las Vegas at the 2008 Prepaid Press Expo. This will be our third year hosting the Prepaid Leadership Summit. The Summit provides us an opportunity to share our knowledge of the prepaid industry with our customers. We touch on new things that we are developing at NetworkIP, we provide our perspectives on what is happening in the prepaid industry (lot of regulatory items this year), & I have the pleasure this year of discussing new opportunities for our customers. This year’s summit is packed full of great information & is sure to be a HUGE success for all of our customers!

The Summit agenda is as follows:

Date: Wednesday, August 20th
Time: 8:00 to 11:00am
Location: Pisa/Palermo Room at Caesar’s Palace     

8:00 – 8:30am – Attendee Check-In & Breakfast

8:30 – 8:45am – NetworkIP Welcome Address
Speaker: Pete Pattullo, President & CEO

8:45 – 9:30am – NetworkIP Technologies & Features
Speakers: Nichole Janner, Vice President of Prepaid Services
Karthik Srinivasan, Director of Systems Engineering
Wendy Gauthier, Solutions Manager

9:30 – 9:45am – Regulatory Landscape
Speaker: Jennifer Begin, Regulatory Manager

9:45 – 10:15am – Mobile Opportunities
Speaker: Brian Kirk, Vice President of Business Development

10:15  – 10:45am – NetworkIP POSA & Transaction Services
Speakers: Doug Williams, Vice President of Transaction Services
Joslin Sansom, Transaction Services Manager
   

10:45  – 11:00am – Branding Dashboards
Speaker: Pete Pattullo, President & CEO


Proven Database Solutions Are Not So Common

August 11, 2008

I was traveling this past week (on vacation actually) & while waiting in the Dallas/Fort-Worth airport to catch a connecting flight I overheard a pretty sad telephone conversation between two engineers that really made me appreciate what our teams have designed & developed over the past 10-years. The conversation between the two software engineers went something like this…

“We are getting a number of customer complaints that the application keeps crashing their systems. Have you looked at the database queries that are running? You know the database is our Achilles’ heel man. We can’t support all that many simultaneous queries. Maybe we should trying queuing up the queries so they don’t overload the system? Yes, I know if we do that it will take longer for things to run, but better they run then crash all the time, right? You know table joins may be a problem too. The database just can’t handle queries that require table joins. Maybe the queries we are running are just too big… I don’t know man; we’ve got to do something soon to fix this. OK, try some stuff & get back with me. I’ve got to tell our customers something.”

I can’t tell you all how relieved I was that I wasn’t in this company’s position. My jaw about hit the floor when I heard the guy refer to their database as their Achilles’ heel. If there is one thing that our customers don’t need to worry about it is our database solution. Handling large volume database transactions is one of our core competencies to say the least. Our database solution handles millions of transactions daily without skipping a beat. These transactions aren’t from a single source either. We handle database requests coming from over 250 API methods, customer service web sites, reporting traffic, & obviously from systems applications handling call processing.

Transaction processing is just another one of the many solutions & services we offer & stand behind. We aren’t trying something new or untested either. We have a proven solution that continues to provide our customers with the reliability & scalability that enterprise solutions demand.

To conclude, I did consult with this gentleman about Jaduka’s Transaction Services API. He seemed overjoyed to hear that we had made our solutions available via simple Web APIs. His company obviously doesn’t have the time, money, or resources to develop a high volume database solution on their own & we’ve got a call later today to discuss this opportunity in more detail.


Plugging Starbucks in to Telephony

August 5, 2008

Every time I walk into Starbucks I’m hit in the face with a new sales promotion. Howard Shultz & crew are doing all that they can to turn Starbucks around. If successful, their current promotion will have consumers visiting a Starbucks twice a day. The approach with this promotion is that if the consumer returns with their morning receipt after 2:00 PM, they will be offered any grande (that is a ‘medium’ for you folks that have yet to pick up on the Starbucks lingo) iced drink for $2.00 instead of the usual $3.50 & above price tag.

I can’t help but look at a promotion like this & imagine the benefits that Starbucks could achieve if they would simply use communication & transaction based technologies to market & manage this promotion. The problem is that too many companies perceive such an integration to either be impossible, or if possible then too expensive.

My morning coffee was paid for using my Starbucks credit card. Talk about a loyal Starbucks’ customer… I earn Starbucks points with all of my purchases instead of miles or cash back. Since Starbucks has already “signed me up” why not alert me of this promotion via text message or better yet with a phone call rather than catching me only after I’ve walked through their doors? It wasn’t until I purchased my coffee & then asked for my receipt that the clerk even notified me about the promotion. What if I wouldn’t have asked for my receipt? Would the clerk even have told me about the promotion?

Even if I do decide to return later today it is now my responsibility to remember the promotion & I’m also forced to keep track of my receipt for the rest of the day. With the use of communication & transaction based technologies I wouldn’t have to do either. Since I’m already a loyal customer & I’m using a Starbucks card I shouldn’t need to hang on to my receipt. My purchases could be tracked on-line & when I return later in the day my Starbucks card could be scanned to validate that I made a purchase earlier that morning. As for forcing me to remember the promotion, since Starbucks already has my mobile phone number I could be sent a text message or recieve a voice call around 1PM to remind me about the promotion. Both of these solutions could easily be enabled through the use of Jaduka’s Voice & Transaction Services APIs.

Again, it’s obvious that too many companies do not realize how easy & inexpensive it is to add these types of technologies to their applications & promotions. This is especially true for companies wishing to add voice.

The Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) for too long now has been inaccessible to companies that do not have huge telephony equipment or deep pockets. With Jaduka’s Voice API we have removed these barriers & we have made it easy & inexpensive to plug in to that telephony network. With our APIs you can make your applications & promotions heard.